When it comes to heart disease, short stature may be a bad sign

By Laura Mize • Published: July 14th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For as long as you can remember, you’ve endured short jokes and the need to have your pants tailored.

Here’s another hassle short people have to deal with: an increased risk of heart disease.

Experts have known for some time that shorter people have a higher-than-normal tendency toward coronary artery disease. This illness is a form of heart disease in which the arteries become significantly narrowed by plaque buildup on the inside.

But what has not been clear is why. According to a study recently reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, it may all be due to genetics.

The scientists conducting the study found that people who were short because of their genes … rather than poor nutrition, for example … were more likely to have clogged arteries.

Two-and-a-half inches of height translated to either a 13.5 percent increase or decrease in risk for coronary artery disease. For example, researchers say a person who is 5 feet tall has a 30 percent greater risk than a person who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall.

There’s more. Two factors known to affect development of coronary artery disease seem to be controlled by the genes that also control height.

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly called L-D-L cholesterol, was one of those factors. This is “bad” cholesterol that sticks to the inside of blood vessels, decreasing blood flow and boosting the potential for a heart attack.

The other factor linked to height-controlling genes is triglycerides, another form of fat that also gums up the circulatory system.

More study is needed to verify a genetic link between shortness and heart disease. In the meantime, heed the prescription of a low-fat diet and lots of exercise to avoid clogged arteries.